Sunday, July 17, 2016

I have not blogged in a long time. I have not felt like writing anything. For me, this is strange. But this season in Rwanda is a different one for me and I have used all the energy I have to finally get over the humps and bumps and start to settle into my life here again.

I have changed the ways I am ministering and gotten back to what I have always been called to do - teach. I am at peace now for the first time since I came back in December of 2015. I have a place of my own that is such a blessing! I needed this as someone who is my age just needs to have a home that is a place of rest and peace and one they can nest in.

I have battled to get a new visa and God showed out for me in that! He took care of it day by day and in the process, showed me more of Himself. I can move forward and know I have two years to continue in the work He has laid out for me to be a part of.

I have grown weary and homesick in it all. At times, I have wanted to give up and come back to the only other home I have ever known. I have found the newness and excitement and level of interest have worn off now and few back home seem to have the time to contact or to keep up with what God is doing here as I partner with him. I get it. I have done it myself in the past. Let my busyness take over my life. But for someone in a foreign place, losing home connection can be really hard to process. I even threw some pretty impressive pity parties for myself! I considered coming home and said maybe I can just do some short mission trips to places but live back at home where it is more familiar and easier. But then, as always, God got my attention long enough to speak some words into my self-absorbed brain.

He reminded me that the reason He asked me to come here and set up life is so that I am available HERE. So that I can disciple here in that time it takes to really get to know people and to earn trust and respect and find deeper fellowship. It takes time to see God's plans and purposes be carried out or at least get underway. It takes time for Him to change me and teach me through the people and this culture that He brought me to. I am not their savior. He is. And I need to grow in my knowledge of Him each and every day if I am going to try and show Him to the children and women that I teach here. Living on the mission field means that I am able to develop relationships that just cannot be rushed. I get to know what they need, how they hurt, what I can learn from them, how we can further the kingdom better by being here day in and day out.

Let me use this analogy: I have bought some plants for my new house and they are in pots. I was there the day we planted them. I have been the one to water them and prune the dead off and keep an eye on them. I have been watching to see if they are thriving in the location I have them in or are they getting distressed. I began to notice that my Lantana was not blooming and even becoming dry even though I gave it water every day. So I moved it. It is covered in blooms now. I needed to be there for more than a short view. It did great by my door for three weeks. I liked it by my door and felt like that was the best place for it. But in the next month it was obvious that something was wrong. So I was able to follow up with some new action. A change in plan that has made us both quite happy now.

God has been softly teaching me that it often takes time and watch care to get a desired result. He needs me to be here so that I can be there to guide in my teacher training or to gain the trust of 100+ students so that I can take them to the next level in their faith journey. To be here when one accepts Jesus and does not know what to do next. To keep praying and loving on that woman who cannot find a job to care for her family. To give out the right kind of assistance and at the right time because I have been here long enough to have learned from God, the locals, and culture a better way. To have those layers of Western thinking chipped away at that need to be put to death as they are robbing me of a deeper relationship with my Father. He is showing me that missions to a different culture is not to be rushed and He will sustain me until my purpose for being here is accomplished. Many people ask me how long will you be there? I guess the answer is as long as it takes for God to finish with me.

If I had a loving message to give to anyone that might happen to read this, it is this: even while most churches today are sending mission teams in for short spans of time to get projects done or share Christ with those they meet, it really does take some on the ground folks to stay the long haul and "watch the plants grow" so they can make sure it was not all in vain. And it gets lonely and sad and overwhelming more days than they care to admit. God is our refuge and strength always!! But His people hold our arms up, too. We never get to a point here where we can say to people, okay, ease up. I do not need help or much prayer or contact anymore.  Praise God for that so that we can be the body Christ wants us to show to the world - the body that cares for each member. Even the ones thousands of miles away :)

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Shortsightedness. A condition I think most humans suffer from. We just cannot see the big picture. We cannot see around the corners and past the moment into the realm of what God might be up to. Then, when we are shown it all in the sweeping tapestry that God is weaving, we suddenly see how each thread is making something beautiful and intricate and connected.

So on Tuesday I went to Inshuti Home for the Disabled to visit. We stayed longer than I had planned and we fed the residents lunch. But it was good. Just not part of my plan. Because we were there through lunch, we were able to give the sister in charge a ride into town. We usually take her to the first major area or a little past and drop her off so she continues to her final destination. Today she wanted to go into town. I did not realize this until we were into the drive. Each time I thought we were in the area we needed to go yet a little further. I said in my mind and heart, God, I am going to take her as far as she needs to go. It is just some gas and a little of my time and I can give that up. Shortsighted. Thinking I was asked to drive her to be a servant. To provide her some convenience. To learn to be more flexible here. It's all about me.

Later in the evening Kirabo gets a call from her saying I needed to tell you what happened today. She said, "Because you took me all the way to where I needed to go in the car, I was able to save time and return back to the home earlier than I had thought I would. When I arrived one of our residents was very sick (maybe a seizure or something like this) and I was able to get them to the hospital. The doctor told us if we had not gotten her there within the hour she would have died. We are here to spend the night with her but we wanted you to know and to thank you."

And I am brought to my knees when I hear this and think about it the past days! Why do I always think an extraordinary God has such a limited purpose behind what He asks me to do? Or that what he asks is always about me? How self-absorbed I can be to always think I am the center of the matter at hand! I did not give a sister a ride that was out of my way and cost me time and gas. I participated in a planned intervention by the God of the universe to save the life of one His little weak ones. It was not about me, never about me. Every life we intersect with means we are creating this tapestry of connected threads by the creator of the universe. He can work without us and yet He chooses to partner with us. How humbling that is! I praise God she is alive. I praise Him that even in my stupidity to think the gift was the sacrifice of time and gas, He allowed it to be used in such a miraculous way.

So, the next time you get stuck in traffic or see someone needing a hand at the grocery store or whatever the thing is that you cannot see past the meaning of it except it is an inconvenience, realize that God may be using you to make the next beautiful addition to the tapestry. Connect to someone today. Partner with God in the mundane with a smile. He may be up to something you never imagined!

Ephesians 3:20  Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us . . .       Amen!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Ever assume you know, or think you know, what is going on? And then you discover you are so wrong you cannot even believe HOW you missed the truth? I think being here in a foreign country, doing ministry to help others and share the Good News, and just being a fix-it American I sometimes get so caught up in not really seeing the bigger picture around me. My perspective is skewed because I am only seeing what I want to or not really looking in areas beyond the obvious. Let me illustrate what I mean:

Sunday I am at church sitting down front as usual with our Meet the Kids group. It is time to do communion and so we help them go over to the tables (we have had many lessons on what communion is now and how to observe it since many of them used to run and grab as much juice and bread as they could, sometimes going from one table to the next). I still get a little nervous wondering if they will remember what we have said. A little girl came and stood beside me that had been sitting down front with us. She had a little English New Testament in her hand and seemed to be very timid. I reached out to let her in front of me and put my arm around her. Her little head had a bit of an odor, her clothes were worn pretty good, and she would not look me in the eye. As we moved towards the table, she was going so slow. People were waiting. I was thinking come on, sweetie, just keep going. I gently guided her forward and saw her go a little off balance. Still oblivious I kept at it. I was starting to get a tiny bit frustrated that she would not go faster. I decided to go around in front of her to see if that would coax her to move on and get through. She finally got there and took the juice and bread. She then reached out to take my hand and go back to our seat. Yes, now I feel a little guilty. She is so sweet, I think!

As we sit back down I see one of her flip flops has twisted around backwards and so being the good fixer I am, I bent down to adjust it. THIS IS WHEN I SEE HER TWISTED FOOT WITH TOES MISSING. This is when I realize she has a club foot that is turned facing backwards and it is NOT that the shoe is on backwards. This is when my eyes are open to how little I really see! This little one, who walked to church from who knows how far with no parents or older siblings, moves slowly due to her foot. But she comes nevertheless. She followed me up when I did children's moment, she sought me out after church to hold my hand, and she even followed me all the way to my car. Why? Because she had no idea of my stupid assumptions but praise God, the touch on her back was interpreted as love. She saw Jesus in me even when I was blind to what Jesus wanted me to see in her.

God, help your children to move from assumptions of what people need or assumptions about what they may be doing to the vision to see your truth in their lives.

On the side: Work is going along well. We will start English with more DuHope ladies next week. The first Bible club for kids at CCR is tomorrow and we have 16 registered. I finally made soap after a failed first attempt so we pray it is a good recipe. We can then move forward in helping the ladies coming to the new DuHope in March learn how to make it and sell it. It has to cure for 4 weeks before we know. We have plans for science clubs in the works and I will be training a teacher to start teaching at the Mother Child Development Center this week. More volunteers are learning about and assisting at The Inshuti Home for the Disabled and so that is encouraging! Please pray for all the work being done with vulnerable women and children. Pray I speak and live out of the gospel daily here so people come to know Jesus Christ as savior and make Him Lord.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Sitting here on a cloudy day, the second day of a new year here in Rwanda,  I am just reflecting on what God has shown me since I got back on December 1. It may be easier to read in list form:

1. Culture shock can and will happen at any time and even sneak up on you. I cane back for year three thinking it might be easier. The last few weeks I have been stretched in traffic, missing the routine of life that is easy to find in the states, and feeling so overwhelmed when I seem to not be able to accomplish what I want to. I have prayed more the last few weeks for God to just let me not give in to it but continue to walk out of this house and meet life here head on. I am seeing some light now. The Rwanda I love is still here.

2. Satan is an adversary that is going to fight to stop what God is wanting to do here. He hates the things God has put on my heart for ministry. He is attacking my room mates with the work they are doing, and just in general he is out to stop the kingdom advancing here. He has worked overtime on me the last several weeks. The power of Jesus, the standing we have in Him, and being alert and aware to the devil's schemes have helped me to stand firm. I may have been afflicted but not crushed, perplexed but not driven to despair, persecuted but not forsaken, struck down but not destroyed! (2 Cor. 4: 8-9) Thank you to those who continue to pray for me!

3. Showing God's love is not always earth-shattering blog worthy stuff. It can be simply listening to a hurting mom, counseling wayward or confused young people, praying and encouraging friends who lose Dads in car wrecks, holding hands with disabled folks and laughing when they burp the orange Fanta you are helping them drink. It is researching soap making for a potential income-generating idea for women who want to get out of sex work or sharing a scripture verse with a bank security guard. It can be forgiving the man who swipes your bumper with his car instead of going postal on him. It can be giving money to some sisters to buy supplies or challenging so many of you to help children get an education here. I often want to measure things in the big moments and those happen here for sure. But the quiet, spirit-filled life where you stop to take someone to the airport in a change of plan can often be more challenging to me to be full of grace and stop MY thing for the sake of someone else.

4. My family, my close friends, my church family, and the people I have come to know in my circle of life in Mississippi have the biggest hearts ever! We sponsored all 45 children and even raised some for the extra feeding they will be doing this year. Thank you, team! I do nothing here that is not a direct result of the support that is coming from the place I call home there.

If you give God the space in this life, He WILL fill it. He is showing me what to empty out and get rid of and filling it with His sweet presence. I am a slow learner but He has grace, mercy, and patience with me. Please continue to pray for the next new endeavors I seek to undertake. I am hoping to get a Bible club started back for kids 3rd-5th grade, to assist with teaching English classes to DuHope ladies, and to learn how to make milk soap. Pray that I can find the best place to host the club, be effective as a teacher of basic English but yet infuse it with God and His Word, and that I do not blow anyone up using lye :)